Fast Forward a Thousand Days
By Izzy

“Take another step and I shoot.”

She’ll have to, she knows that. Otherwise it’s too likely they’ll be able to get the gun away from her, or lunge for the pair she’s managed to kick away from them into the corner. She wouldn’t be able to outrun them at full strength, especially when they know this place and she doesn’t. And while her captors didn’t get too far into their interrogation of her, she thinks there’s still drugs in her system, especially since she feels too much like she did even after she walked out of that warehouse, one too much like the one the four of them are standing in now, leaving James Wesley’s dead body behind her.

One of the men, the youngest, she thinks, looks like he absolutely believes her. It’s his gun she’s holding, and largely his fault she was able to get free from her bindings. The second looks uncertain. But the third is grinning. “Will you really?” he sneers. “Girl like you, think you have it in you?”

“I’ve held a gun, his own that time too, to at least one man who thought I didn’t,” Karen retorts. “You want to find out if I do?”

Her tone, she knows, must convey the rest, and she sees from the second man’s expression he believes her too now. Still the third looks unaffected. Karen trains the gun as best she can on him. Maybe, she thinks, if she just shoots the last, not even necessarily fatally, she can cow the other two, maybe just long enough to-

Three shots blast their way through one of the windows, and all three men fall dead before her. Even though she knows instantly just who fired them; it’s such a shock that for a minute or so she just stands there and gapes, guilty relief filling her.

When Frank walks in, she asks dully, “How did you know?”

“Lieberman. Long story we don’t have time for right now. There are two more of these assholes en route here, and they’re calling for backup. I’m able to listen to their radio traffic. I heard everything those three,” he glowered at the dead men, “said while you were passed out. Be glad you missed that, Karen. Some other things I’ve heard you can probably write about as being from an anonymous source.”

She should care more about that last part, she knows. But it’s not what Frank heard *them* say that’s sent Karen’s heart pounding. “You…” she managed. “You heard me say, just now…?”

Frank let out a sigh, and shook his head. “Let’s at least get out of here.”

They walk fast, taking each other’s hands as they emerge into the moonless night. “We’re still in Hell’s Kitchen,” he tells her. “They mostly spent the day sitting around waiting for you to wake up and arguing with people over the radio whether they could interrogate you themselves.”

He seems to know where he’s going, so she lets him lead her, until the Hudson’s gleaming in front of them. “If you know where to find these people tomorrow…”

“Lieberman’s working on it; someone’ll find them. I won’t even have to kill any more of them.” A light chuckle, with a touch of regret in it. “You’ve done enough on this one, right?”

“Really,” she says, not trying to hide that her thoughts are just going back to her unanswered question.

She looks over at him. He’s not much more than a silhouette before her, just standing there, looking neither at nor away from her, keeping hold of her hand.

“Look,” he says, his voice a soft rumble in the night, “there are things about you I’ve long figured out. There were a few tells you gave away as early as that first hospital visit. And if there’s one thing I’ve been dead certain of, it’s that whoever you’ve killed left you with no choice, and was probably a piece of shit who deserved it.”

Karen is frozen now, feeling even more knocked out than those drugs made her. All this time, she thought, and when she thought no one knew, no one could ever know…

“I might…” Frank was continuing. “One day, if it looks like someone’s coming for revenge, I might need a name. But you never have to tell me anything else. I’d never need any explanations from you.”

She supposes that if she did give him the name, he’d see that as explaining itself. She wants to. She wants to tell him everything.

But she still can’t get her throat to work.

There’s a split second of honest terror when Frank lets go of her hand. But then he’s placing his arm over her shoulders, so gently. “Come on. We have to keep moving.”

When she looks over the skyline on the far side of the river, she can get a pretty good idea of where in Hell’s Kitchen they are. They’re going to be walking for a while. “You still listening in on those guys?” she asks.

“Conversations are starting to die down. I’m afraid they’re headed to your apartment; you’ll have to stay somewhere else tonight.”

Somewhere they’ll probably take the long way to, she thinks. Unless they go to Curtis, or all the way out to the Liebermans’ home, Frank won’t be able to come in with her. So he’ll have to tell her everything he’s learned about these people en route.

But as they start their long walk together, he whispers to her, “You’re safe with me. You know that.”

She certainly knows it now.